Emaciated Zim lion Tommy will be OK - Cecil researcher

2015-08-13 18:05
(Paula French, AP)

(Paula French, AP)

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Harare - A lion researcher in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, where Cecil was killed, says he's confident that a painfully thin male lion, which was separated from his pride, will pull through.

“Tommy” was photographed earlier this week emaciated and lying on his side near the Nyamandlovu Platform in Hwange, prompting a flood of concern and pleas for intervention by wildlife lovers already reeling from Cecil's death. 

Tommy is collared and is being monitored by researchers from Oxford University, just as Cecil was before he was shot with a bow and arrow by a US dentist on an illegal hunt last month.

Brent Stapelkamp told News24 on Thursday that the 7-year-old male lion had not yet managed to join up with his pride.

"I looked at his data today. They've moved a little bit south, they're only a kilometre or so away," he said in a telephone interview.

"I'm pretty confident that if they kill something, he'll see vultures in the sky," and get a good feed, Stapelkamp added.

Tommy's plight has reignited the discussion over how far humans can or should intervene when nature appears to be taking its course.

'We can't intervene'

Some readers posting on the Lions of Hwange National Park Facebook page - which takes its name from Stapelkamp's project but is not its official page - have begged researchers to intervene.

"Please don't let him suffer unnecessarily," said one reader. "Cecil suffered enough, give Tommy a pass," wrote another.

But others agreed that it was right not to interfere. "So sad but we should respect one golden rule of nature. Never interfere with nature," read one post.

Stapelkamp told News24, "It's quite natural. We can't intervene."

He confirmed that Tommy had not actually been thrown out of his pride. "He's still with the pride. He was injured in a fight and he's struggling to keep up with them.

"I've seen him in that state before, and he killed a buffalo," he added.

President Robert Mugabe lamented Cecil's killing in a speech to mark National Heroes' Day on Monday.

"He is dead but he was yours to protect and you failed to protect him," the 91-year-old president said in his first public reference to Cecil, whose killing brought the world's attention back to Zimbabwe. 

A countrywide lion hunting ban imposed in the wake of Cecil's killing has been lifted but remains in place on the farm where Cecil was killed and in a few other areas. 

Bow hunting for lions and other big game has also been banned, except under special circumstances.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  conservation

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